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NEW YORK —For the first time, three people who ate pet-jerky treats that have been linked to the deaths and illnesses of thousands of dogs — two toddlers who ingested them accidentally and an adult who may have been snacking on them — became ill, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported this week.

Petco said Tuesday that it will stop selling dog and cat treats made in China by the end of this year because of ongoing fears that the imported treats are making pets sick. Investigators at the FDA haven’t been able to figure out why pets are getting ill from the treats since the agency began receiving reports of illnesses in 2007.

One of the children
was diagnosed with a salmonella infection, which can be spread by touching tainted products, said Juli Putnam, a spokeswoman for the FDA. The other child developed gastrointestinal illness and fever that were similar to the symptoms of dogs in the house that also ate the treats. The adult reported nausea and headache, she says. None of the people was hospitalized.

The two toddlers ate imported jerky-treat products, and the adult ate a domestic jerky pet-treat product, Putnam says.

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In its latest assessment of a mystery that continues to vex federal investigators, the FDA says the deaths of more than 1,000 dogs have now been linked to toxic pet-jerky treats from China.

Thousands of complaints of pet illnesses — 5,600 dogs and 24 cats — tied to the products have been filed with the agency, but, after seven years of testing and inspections of plants in China that produce the treats, investigators still can’t pinpoint the source of contamination.

About 1,800 of those complaints were filed since the FDA’s last update in October. Most of the complaints involve chicken jerky (treats, tenders and strips), but others include duck, sweet potato and other jerky treats.

About 60 percent of the animals were reported with gastrointestinal illnesses, the FDA says. About 30 percent had kidney or urinary problems. The remaining 10 percent showed other symptoms, such as convulsions, tremors, hives and skin irritation. The agency says 72 of the dogs that developed kidney problems were diagnosed with Fanconi or Fanconi-like syndrome, a rare kidney disease.

In an update last week, the FDA said it has received more than 4,800 complaints of pet illnesses and more than 1,000 reports of dog deaths after eating Chinese-made chicken, duck or sweet-potato jerky treats.

The FDA said tests found the antiviral drug amantadine in some samples of imported chicken jerky treats sold a year or more ago but doesn’t think it caused the illnesses. The FDA said it will continue to investigate.

Petco said that shoppers have asked it to stop selling treats from China. The pet-food retailer said it is switching them out for treats that are made in the U.S., New Zealand, Australia and South America.

It already began cutting down on the amount of Chinese-made treats three years ago, said Petco Vice President John Sturm. It expects to completely get rid of them in all its 1,300 stores by the end of this year. The San Diego company doesn’t sell any pet food made in China.

Rival PetSmart
didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

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